At our church, and with friends, we have a tradition of a night of blessing for young men about to get married. Men get together to encourage and bless the young man, offering the perspective of their own experience.
This weekend we got together with Emmanuel Rosendo who is marrying Alexa, the daughter of good friends Art and Sherrie Attila.
Here is what I had to say to Manny.
Manny, I don’t really know you yet, although like all of Alexa’s friends I look forward to knowing you better. But even though I don’t know you very well, I expect you would rather have black-bean soup than a taco.
And I’m pretty sure that July 26, which commemorates the establishment of the Commonwealth, means more to you than Cinco de Mayo, although few of your fellow Americans are thoughtful enough to note the distinction.
As a Puerto Rican you are a citizen of the United States by birth and right. But your roots in such a rich and colorful culture probably makes hanging out with Anglos sometimes feel exceedingly strange.
This sense of living as in a foreign land is a great spiritual resource, however. It allows you to understand what the Scripture requires of us all, a sense of pilgrimage, a longing for a better country. This is not our true home. You know what that feels like, and may therefore better than most of us experience the freedom of following God into new and unfamiliar lands.
What I don’ t know is if you favor statehood or independence, although like most Puerto Ricans you probably prefer the status quo. But I’m here to tell you that the status quo is over. The status quo is almost always a political arrangement, not a personal one. And in your personal life, you are beginning to manage three new cultural challenges.
The first was moving to Michigan, and it this I am somewhat an expert. I was raised in Florida and moved to Michigan 25 years ago. I love the subtle flavors of Caribbean food and the laid back pace of the tropics, but I am now at home in this strange land.
The first thing you probably noticed was a change of pace. People in the Midwest are driven by the winds of winter, which means they play really hard for about 4 months while the roads are all under construction, and they sit inside and try to stay warm for another 4 months. During the other 4 months, loosely defined as spring and fall, you clean the garage and take care of everything else.
Because of these seasons, and because this region was settled by people from similar climates and cultures, it feels like everyone is always in a hurry. That’s because they are. Your own cultural sense of hospitality and relationship will have to adjust to new rhythms. But don’t lose them. They are part of God’s design for your life, and now for Alexa’s.
By the way, just because you moved here you are not up north. “Up north” refers to a desolate wilderness where people drive snowmobiles and try to catch tiny fish under the ice. Fortunately your new family has not been taken in by this nonsense. But this family too represents a new culture. I hope you like football and music.
I don’t want to tell you too much about the Attila’s, and thus rob you of the joy of discovery. But I will tell you this about your father-in-law: he is a picky eater, and I’m betting it will be five years before you can get him to eat a plantain.
He is also a good and godly man, and you will do well to not only respect but to seek his counsel. When you want to run ahead, listen to his caution. When you want to explode, watch his temperance. When you are depressed, laugh at his jokes.
Your relationship with him will not always be smooth. After all, you both love the same woman but in different ways and for different reasons. But you both have her interests at heart and must work together so that she will flourish by God’s grace.
I encourage you most of all to watch his manner of life. Watch how he loves his wife, and learn from it. He is a patient teacher and an excellent model. You are blessed in this.
In fact, you are blessed by a whole new family whose hospitality is gracious, whose generosity is legendary, and whose faith is strong. You know something of this. It’s part of who Alexa is and part of what drew you to her in the first place.
And well, that’s a new culture altogether. We bring you here tonight to encourage you and bless you, but none of us pretends to understand women and their ways. Some of us are more thoughtful observers, and some of us have more experience. But all that observing and experiencing leads to only one clear and compelling conclusion, and that is we are often clueless.
We delight in their beauty and we rest in their care. As we love them, we learn to do and appreciate new things. As we lay down our lives for them, we become more Christ like. As we accept the responsibility of protecting them and leading them toward holiness, we become men in a way we never imagined.
But there are surprises at every turn, mysteries beyond reckoning, and sometimes wounds too deep for us to heal. So we talk too much and pray too little, missing the truth that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness and that human understanding is seldom the wisdom of providence.
In the end our authority and our responsibility lead us to greater submission and dependence, for only in Christ can we manage and transcend these great divides.
James has something to say about how to do this. He says, “Know this, my beloved brother: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:19-20).”
This is instruction for a lifetime, and instruction for a marriage. Men in particular don’t listen enough, speak too soon and get angry too easily. But the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
And isn’t this our calling as husbands? As Ephesians 5:27 puts it, to present our wives “in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish,” as Christ does the church.
So I give you this advice, and this blessing.
By the grace of God, be quick to hear, and slow to speak, and slow to anger, so your wife will flourish with inner beauty and quiet strength, becoming more precious and more beautiful as long as you both shall live.